Irony in the Headlines

Today is Wednesday, September 4, 2013. In reading the headlines this morning, I was struck by the irony of some of the news. The G-20 Summit, for example, is meeting in the palace of the  Grand Duke Konstantin Romanov, an older cousin of Czar Nicholas.  In doing a little digging, I found that Konstantin was one of the leading cultural leaders of Turn of the Century Russia–good friends with Tchaikovsky, translator of a number of German and English classic literature pieces into Russian, a president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and, according to his own memoirs/journals, gay, or at least bi-sexual. But if you know anything about the European aristocracy of the period, homosexual relations between men in this exclusive ‘club’ was the rule not the exception. They were required to be married and have families, but the internal culture of the aristocracy separated men from women rather conveniently, leaving men to consort with each other on hunting trips, in hunting lodges, in their in-town men’s clubs, etc., and women were simply not allowed. In this all-male social milieu it is not surprising that same-sex relationships developed. Wilhelm of Germany had an entire cohort of gay men around him, many were officials within his government. Russia’s aristocratic culture was no different and Konstantin documented his relationships with other men.

The irony here is that Putin selected this palace with this very large, inconvenient ghost in the room, after having just signed the most severe anti-gay law in Europe. I would hope Obama and the other world leaders in attendance might say something to Putin about this ironic situation. I would also hope these leaders meet with representatives of the Russian LBGT community to find out first hand what the impact of the law has been and what their vision is for the Olympic Games in Sochi.

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